Crossing Souls has been in the works for over three years now and after a successful Kickstarter campaign it’s time to see if this 80’s inspired platformer is more style or substance.
MonsterVine was supplied with a PC code for review
Thankfully it’s the latter because this game is dense. Not dense in the way like maybe something like The Witcher 3 where there’s a lot to do, but dense in that there’s a lot to see. Upon starting the game you’re in your house where there are dozens of items to interact with, with a good amount of easter eggs unapologetically thrown in there.
Every little nugget of info helps breathe life into the world and characters. When you get out into the city to explore you’re met with even more characters to interact with and winking foreshadowing at future set pieces the game sets up. My only gripe is that I wish they had allowed just a bit more interaction with the characters in the city before you’re sent off into more linear focused levels. The later levels are fun don’t get me wrong, particularly a Back to the Future 3 inspired section, but the city has so much charm I just wanted to stay in it longer. Doubling down on this 80’s nostalgia aesthetic, the game even features cutscenes that are done in the same style of 80’s cartoons that I really wish they had more of, or at least made go on longer than five seconds. They’re really well done and as someone who spent a lot of their childhood watching 80’s cartoons I would’ve loved to see more of them in this game. Of course, you can’t have an 80’s inspired game without some fitting music, so adding onto this is a phenomenal synth soundtrack by Timecop1983 which you should all absolutely check out.
So besides all the 80’s nostalgia that everything is wrapped around, the core focus of the game is very reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon. The evil villain wants a powerful relic that will help him rule the world and your gang of heroes wants to stop him. In this case the villain is military man, Major Oh Rus who wants the relic known as the Duat that allows him to access the spooky ghost realm and your gang of heroes are a bunch of kids. The beats hit when you expect them to, but the world is so charming that it all ends up working and keeping you laughing along.
As brilliant as the world and cast of characters is in this game, the combat and platforming is unfortunately where it falters. You play as five children that you can instantly swap between and each one has their own special ability: Chris can deflect projectiles with his bat and climb objects, Big Joe dishes heavy damage and can move large boxes, Charlie is quick and has a wide hitting jump rope, Matt has a laser gun and can hover, and Kevin is just Chris’ annoying little brother. The characters themselves are well realized and you eventually start to care about them, but actually playing as them leaves more to be desired. Matt just isn’t fun to use since enemies rush towards you and they run faster than you can shoot, Kevin is useless, Chris and Charlie can be interchanged, and Big Joe crosses the line of moving so slow it starts to impede the fun. There also isn’t really any reason to play as anyone other than Chris or Charlie in a fight besides the few bosses that require a specific character’s ability for a moment. As fun as these characters are when interacting with each other and the story, there just isn’t any sort of strategy or fun dynamic that comes from the combat.
Besides punching goons a lot, you’ll spend a decent amount of time solving puzzles. These range from simple things like rearranging puzzle pieces, to playing “he said she said” with some ghosts and even playing a game of Simon. Most of these puzzles are pretty simple things you’ve done in countless other games, but the ones that really stroke that 80’s nostalgia in fun ways are really worth it. Without getting into too heavy spoiler territory, ghosts play a heavy role in not only the plot but puzzles as well. You’ll soon acquire a ghostly character who’s able to do things like walk through doors or climb platforms that simply aren’t there physically. You’ll use both your living and dead characters to solve puzzles together but these usually amount to using your spectral friend to find a button to step on so a door opens for your goonies crew. Sparse checkpoints are probably my main gripe with this game. Floating floppy discs, appropriately enough, are where you can manually save your game but there are a few moments in the game that last just a bit *too* long between save points and I really wish an autosave mechanic was implemented for those few moments.
The Final Word
Crossing Souls is a love letter to the 80’s with a charming cast of characters that’s unfortunately held back by weak combat mechanics.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair